For beer nerds (and let’s face it, I wouldn’t bother writing this if I wasn’t one) the quality of a tap selection is what makes an occasion. However, for most people, and even for us anoraks seeking variety as the quality of the normal line-up in London bars goes ever upwards, it is good to see more thought put into events.
A great example was “Getting away with it”, six beers matched with six tracks from 1980’s electronica organised by Matt Curtis at Hops Burns & Black, a superb niche store that would be a great local for anyone living in the area. I am a big New Order fan, but it was slightly terrifying when speaking to some other guests beforehand and realising how many had not even been born when Technique was released!
Matt is an excellent event organiser, passionate and knowledgeable about his subject and willing to try different angles to approach it. Consequently the evening was great fun, enjoyable both for those with a great interest in, or completely new to, the world of beer.
Continuing the music/beer theme, I always enjoy the coincidence that it could be said that Bermondsey is the birth-place of both the acid house and craft beer revolutions, a generation apart, in that Shoom nightclub (RIP) is but a short-walk away from the original Kernel.
Furthermore they were both created after life-changing trips abroad by their founders: the famous Danny Rampling (along with Paul Oakenfeld and Nicky Holloway) holiday to Ibiza in 1987 where they saw Alfredo DJ at Amnesia, and the slightly less famous trip Evin O’Riordain took to New York where he discovered modern American beers. History does not repeat itself but it rhymes.
UBrew have now acquired taps and have also hosted a final of a homebrew competition. They have the advantage of an absolutely perfect sun-trap; that is if the sun ever re-appears this summer. However, they had a truly appalling pricing policy with respect to halves, which was vastly marked up relative to pints: for instance £6.50 a pint for the Weird Beard Out of Coffee IPA but £4 a half or an implied £8 a pint!
Given their strength and the temperature they are served at, and ideally consumed at, particularly in the afore-mentioned sun-trap, I almost always prefer keg beers in halves at most. There is absolutely no excuse for this pricing.
After they posted their board on Twitter and were called up on it, they did change it, claiming it was an honest mistake although one wonders how on earth a business can survive if nobody is capable of dividing by two.
The American Beer Showcase at BottleShop was a truly superb list with many rare beers. Personal highlights included Horchata Almond Milk Stout Brewed with Rice, Almonds, Vanilla and Cinnamon, and Almanac Emperor Norton Hoppy Belgian Ale with Apricots. I confess I am no expert, but Ka’u coffee is apparently a great delicacy and coffee heads raved about the special version of Alesmith’s Speedway Stout, a Hawaiian interpretation with coconut, vanilla and obviously Ka’u.
A new Draft house opened at Old Street, a stone’s throw away from my favourite pub, the Old Fountain, and therefore another addition to the previously mentioned James Parrott Clerkenwell Mile. Given their proximity, it essentially doubles the tap capacity of either, and therefore rather like Janet Yellen’s infamous claims to be data-dependant, a punter can become entirely tap-dependant as to which one to frequent.
Competition is always good for consumers and it has already led to the Old Fountain opening on bank holiday for the first time ever.
Weird Beard came to BottleShop, which brought back memories of their regular monthly events back in 2014 when, it is safe to say, the venue looked very different. This time they brought a couple of special collaboration beers, the Suspect Device DIPA (Farmageddon), which was noteworthy even amongst the recent run of that style and Weird Wired (8 Wired), a cask EPA.
Unfortunately this time round, they did not bring any of the delicious homemade beer-flavoured truffles or cakes that they used to!
BrewDog Shoreditch hosted Sour Power. This was a great idea and it was testament to its quality that my favourite was the evergreen raspberry London sour from The Kernel.
In a month when a new MasterChef champion was crowned, it is worth noting Nanbam Kyuzu, a yuzu-flavoured collaboration between Pressure Drop and 2011 winner Tim Anderson’s restaurant Nanbam.
He was managing the Euston Tap when he won and mentioned his love of beer during the series. Frightening to think that when it was filmed in late 2010 there was no Siren, Mother Kelly’s, Craft Beer Co. nor London BottleShop, the only brewery in Bermondsey was The Kernel, and Beavertown was just a glint in the eye of a BBQ restaurant.
The Hop Bunker, downstairs at BrewDog Camden, saw the succinctly titled “6 over 6%” featuring 6 Stone beers over 6%. The Delicious IPA and Ruination 2 were as good as always. The same venue had seen Jakob Mclean, founder and CEO of Modern Times, visit on May Day, which unfortunately I had to miss due to family commitments, as their City of the Sun IPA is probably my favourite beer at the moment.
Two American takeovers back-to-back: On Friday, California’s Bagby Beer came to BottleShop. This was a new brewery to me and I particularly enjoyed the Dork Squad IPA. The next day Fred Karm, the extremely friendly owner of Ohio’s Hopping Frog visited Craft Beer Co, Covent Garden.
The prices were eye-watering (£18 a pint for the Rum Borris imperial stout), but thankfully thirds were available and to be fair there was absolutely no shortage of punters wanting to taste. I loved the Killa Vanilla IPA and the Goose Juice Rye IPA, while the Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale really divided opinion. I think it split generally along the lines of whether you are from a brewing, or, like me, consuming background (to revisit the MasterChef theme, the talented chef or Greg Wallace?). Some thought it a masterpiece of technical skill in that it tasted exactly like your grandmother’s shandy, although that rather begs the question of why spend £15/pint when a Fosters and Seven-up top achieve the same result at 20% of the price!
Five Points held their inaugural yard party, an event they are planning on holding every month. Given the good weather, this was a really enjoyable afternoon. Finally, given that it has been open over a year, it is remiss of me not to have mentioned the Hop Locker before. It is a shining beacon amidst most of the tourist tat along the south bank with excellent beers from passionate and friendly owners.
Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.